Yet in an era when Silicon Valley’s promises look less gilded than
before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only
not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in
the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude
on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling.
Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts
user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product
de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than
an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a
constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto — the closest
thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few
remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the
early World Wide Web. A free encyclopedia encompassing the whole
of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers:
Can you believe that was the one that worked?
Wikipedia is not perfect, but what is? The knock against Wikipedia when it started is that it wouldn’t work at all, that it was doomed to failure. Turns out, it not only works, it works very well. It’s an essential, irreplaceable resource today.